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Full text of "Canada's canal problem and its solution"

Canada's Canal 
Problem 

And Its Solution 




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IRD OF TRADE OF THE 
CITY OF TORONTO 



Purchased CANAtUANA 

from the ^ ^ _ , _, _ • ,_ _ _ 

Chancellor COLLeCTlON 

Richardson QUCeN'S 
Memorial ^ . ^-.^ ..•_-, 

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AT KlNQSTON 



'ONTAKIO CANADA 



The EDITH *W LORNE PIERCE 
COLLECTION of CANADI ANA 




Queens University at Kingston 



CANADA'S CANAL PROBLEM 
AND ITS SOLUTION 



A 



S to the importance to Canada of retaining the control of Commercial 



and Political 
Independence 
Involved. 



traffic seeking its way to the world markets from the West 
and North- West, by the route of the Great Lakes, there is practi- 
cally unanimity of opinion in the Dominion. Canadians are agreed 
that this is essential to our commercial independence, and that 
without it even the preservation of the political union of the 
Provinces and the maintenance of our position as an integral part 
of the British Empire would become difficult to the verge of the 
impossible. Dependence upon any other nation, however 
friendly, for access to their own seaboard, is repugnant to any 
self-respecting people, and would inevitably lead to commercial 
subserviency — if not, indeed, to political capitulation. As to 
the best way to ensure this commercial independence, however, 
there is not the same unanimity of opinion. Yet even among 
those who differ as to plans and projects there is almost entire 
agreement that a Canadian waterway capable of carrying all the 
grain of that part of the North- West which may be said to be 
naturally tributary to the Great Lakes is absolutely essential. 

The season during which the grain crop of our North- West Provide for 
can be transported to the seaboard by water — from the end of 
harvest to the close of navigation — is short, and the canal system 
we must construct should, therefore, be as capacious as possible. 
Again, inasmuch as the vessels that will carry this grain must 
find employment in the carrying of other kinds of freight during 
the rest of the summer, our canal system must be able to pass 
through it any vessel that can profitably navigate the lakes; 
anything less than that would not meet the requirements. 



Our neighbors in the State of New York realize quite as clearly 
as we do the importance of the control of the water-borne traffic 
of the West and North- West, and with splendid and entirely 
admirable energy they are doing all that nature will permit to 
divert that trade into channels of their own. They are enlarging 
and improving the Erie Canal, and, when completed, it will be 
without exception the finest barge canal in the world. The 



Competition of 
the Erie Canal. 



barges using it will have a capacity of some 35,000 bushels of 
wheat, and will afford a very cheap means of transportation, so 
cheap that our present Welland-St. Lawrence Canals would be 
utterly unable to compete with it. Even as compared with the 
present 6-foot Erie Canal, navigated by barges scarcely one- 
fourth the capacity of those that will ply in the New Erie, the 
advantage which our 14-foot Welland-St. Lawrence system has 
is so slight that a few years ago the imposition of a trivial toll of 
one-half cent per bushel and an almost insignificant tonnage tax 
turned the scale against us. As the cost of transportation by 
the New Erie will be certainly not more than two-thirds the 
present charge, it is evident that for Canada to stand still or even 
to hesitate would be suicidal; for it must not be forgotten that 
our rivals have and probably always will have a very substantial 
advantage in cheaper ocean freights and lower insurance. 

Must Provide jj. j s then, absolutely essential that Canada's canal system 

Future. shall be able, by reason of its capacity and speed, to carry grain 

to tide-water more cheaply and advantageously than will be pos- 
sible by the New Erie. It is not necessary here to more than state 
this, for as to it there is practical unanimity of Canadian public 
opinion. As has been said, standing still or even delay would 
for Canada be suicidal. The first would mean that not a bushel 
of all the teeming harvests of the future North- West would find 
its way to the world's markets by Canadian waterways or in 
Canadian vessels. To hesitate would allow our neighbors to 
obtain a commercial advantage that it would be difficult for us to 
overcome — impossible to surmount entirely. The new Canadian 
water-route must be in every way superior to the Erie, and it 
must be completed as soon or nearly as soon. As the Erie will 
be the best barge canal in the world, ours must be the best fresh- 
water ship canal. 



The Various Plans Proposed. 

There are three projects proposed, and the Canadian people, 
or the Government and Parliament acting for the people, must 
choose between them. These projects are: 

^Drov^m^t (1) To immediately deepen and enlarge, shorten and improve 

Alone. the Welland Canal sufficiently to permit the passage from Lake 

Erie to Lake Ontario, in the shortest time practicable, of the 
largest vessels now navigating or likely to navigate the lakes. 



(2) To do this and likewise to correspondingly improve the TifefvVel&nd- 
St. Lawrence Canal system so as to allow the passage of these 

vessels to Montreal without breaking bulk. 

(3) To construct a 22-foot ship canal from the Georgian Bay The Georgkn 
to Montreal by way of the French River, Lake Nipissing, and the 
Mattawan and Ottawa Rivers. 



All these schemes have their supporters and advocates; sec- 
tional interests and the supposed advantages which would accrue 
to certain localities influencing, to some extent, the arguments 
and contentions of each. The matter ought not, however, to be 
discussed in a sectional spirit. Certainly it should not be decided 
except upon the highest national grounds. Whichever scheme 
will most certainly, having proper regard to probable cost, ac- 
complish the national and imperial objects aimed at, should be 
adopted quite regardless of sectional demands. For Parliament 
to decide the matter upon any lesser grounds would amount to a 
betrayal of trust. 

It is not necessary, perhaps, to discuss the first-mentioned 
project at any great length. The immediate improvement of 
the Welland Canal without a corresponding betterment of the 
St. Lawrence system would no doubt prevent our neighbors from 
obtaining a substantial advantage over us by reason of the early 
completion of the Erie Canal. Possibly also it might meet the 
requirements of North- West wheat transportation for some 
years to come. Ocean-going vessels do not carry exclusive grain 
cargoes, only taking partial cargoes when better-paying freight' 
is not offered. Perhaps, then, grain stored in elevators at King- 
ston or Prescott ready for prompt shipment to Montreal by barges 
might be sufficiently convenient. At any rate, it may be said 
with confidence that even without the improvement of the St. 
Lawrence system our present 14-foot canals there would more 
than hold their own in competition with any 12-foot barge 
canals connecting Lake Ontario with the Erie system. But as a 
permanent and final solution of Canada's Canal problem this 
would be incomplete and ineffectual. 

The Georgian Bay Canal project finds its strongest and most 
earnest supporters in Montreal, in Ottawa, and along the proposed 
route — perhaps it is not mis-stating in any degree to say that it 
finds its only support there. For though it has been repeatedly 
stated in Parliament that the Georgian Bay Canal is one of the 



Sectional Con- 
siderations 
Should not 
Decide. 



Welland Im 
provement 
Alone Insuffi- 
cient. 



Support of the 
Georgian Bay 
Project. 



"demands of the West,'* Mayor Hopewell of Ottawa is authority 
for the statement that the deputation of Western farmers who 
visited Ottawa some time ago almost to a man declared that they 
wanted no Georgian Bay Canal. However, it is not of the first 
importance to know who support or who oppose, or even what 
may be the motive inspiring the support or opposition. The 
consideration that should influence and decide is, What is best? 



Claims Made for Georgian Bay Project. 

Briefly and succinctly, but with sufficient exactness, the 
claims put forward in support of the Georgian Bay route may be 
stated as follows: 

(a) It will be shorter than any other route — 282 miles less 
than the Welland-St. Lawrence route, and 424 shorter than the 
Erie. 

(b) It will be faster by from a day to a day and a half than the 
present Welland-St. Lawrence route, besides having an enor- 
mously greater carrying capacitjr. 

(c) By damming certain rivers and creating certain reservoirs 
at the summit, 540 cubic feet of water per second can be obtained, 
sufficient to pass 24 vessels per day, or 5,040 per season, through 
the canal, and by a further system of dams and reservoirs at an 
additional expenditure of $900,000 an additional 700 cubic feet 
per second can be obtained. 

(d) By the construction of the canal one million horse power 
can be developed, and this is valued at $5 per horse power, or 
$5,000,000 per year! 

(e) The canal can be completed and ready for navigation in 
ten years from the time of commencement, at a cost of $100,000,- 
000. 

( f ) The size of the lock chambers is to be 650 feet long by 65 
feet wide, and the depth of water on the sills is to be 22 feet. 

(g) The proposed route will be entirely within our own terri- 
tory, and, in case of a war with the United States, free from danger 
of attack. 



Georgian Bat Claims Analyzed. 

These statements are in accord with the report of the Govern- mra have^irot 81 " 
ment engineers, and the claims made are borne out by the report. Endorsed. 
It is significant, however, that though the scheme has the endorse- 
ment, as to its feasibility, of the three Government engineers, it 
has not yet received the endorsement or approval of practical 
vessel-men having experience of lake and canal navigation. 

Assuming that all the calculations of the engineers are as Canada^ Canal 
accurate as the data at their command would allow, and assuming Problem? 
that all the claims are honestly made, it would still remain to be 
determined whether this scheme would meet Canada's require- 
ments and secure for the Dominion that position of supremacy 
as regards lake, river and canal transportation which is our natural 
right. To arrive at a correct answer to this question it will be 
necessary to examine, seriatim, the claims above set forth in the 
light of known facts and positive information. 

(a) On the map the proposed canal is 282 miles shorter than Shorter on the 
the Welland-St. Lawrence route; but is it commercially shorter? Commercially. 
Will vessels using this route have a shorter or a longer distance 

to cover, having regard to where they must secure return cargoes, 
without which profitable freight carrying is not possible? With 
the exception of package freight, comparatively little of which 
would be obtainable at Montreal, and practically none along the 
route of the canal, the only available cargo for grain-carrying 
vessels is coal. Since coal as a rule is a dollar per ton dearer in 
Montreal than at Lake Erie ports, it is evident that none would 
be shipped by way of the proposed canal. Vessels using the route 
would therefore have to return empty through the canal and go 
down to some Lake Erie port for a return cargo. In other words, 
the proposed canal, though geographically 282 miles shorter than 
the Welland-St. Lawrence route, is commercially fully 1,300 miles 
longer. What chance would vessels so handicapped have in 
competition for the grain-carrying trade with rivals sailing direct 
to Buffalo with assured return cargoes awaiting them? 

(b) It will be as well, perhaps, to allow the engineers who 
put forward this claim to give the answer to it: 

With the advantage of shorter distance between terminal ^■ dl ? ltt ?^fe.^ ) 
harbors, it is computed that the route will be from one to one of Transit, 
and a half days faster than any other existing water route, 
under present conditions, from the head of the Great Lakes 



Speed Claimed 
Impractical. 



Proposed Canal 
would not meet 
Future 
Requirements. 



to an Ocean port, apart from having an enormous superiority 
as to carrying capacity. But as compared with a possible 

IMPROVED SYSTEM OF St. LAWRENCE CANALS TO A DEPTH OF 
22 FEET, ASSUMING THAT THE NUMBER OF LOCKS WOULD BE 
GREATLY REDUCED AND SOME OF THE CHANNELS WIDENED, 

probably NO PRACTICAL BENEFIT IN TIME OF 
TRANSIT COULD BE CLAIMED, the saving in dis- 
tance BEING NEARLY OFFSET BY THE LONGER STRETCHES OF 
LAKE AND WIDE RIVER NAVIGATION WHICH WOULD EXIST 
THROUGH THE LAKE ERIE AND LAKE ONTARIO ROUTE, WHERE 
HIGHER SPEEDS WOULD BE PERMISSIBLE. 

— Page 2, Interim Report. 

It is evident, then, upon the admission of the engineers who 
put forward the claim of greater speed, that the route would be 
not one minute faster than an improved Welland-St. Lawrence 
route. Even the claim they make is founded upon the highly 
problematical assumption that an average speed can be main- 
tained greater by a mile an hour than in the Suez Canal, where 
there are no locks, and half a mile greater than is practicable in 
the Manchester Canal. Practical vessel-men, whose experience 
in lake and river navigation entitles their opinions to weight, say 
that an average speed of six miles per hour through such a channel 
would be utterly impossible; that one-half or even one-third of 
that speed would be all that could be maintained with any degree 
of safety. When it is borne in mind that the proposed route 
would be crooked and tortuous, with 120 curves, some of them 
of three degrees, that a large part of the route would be canalized 
river, requiring great care and caution, and that during a great 
part of the season fogs are frequent on the course, it is at least 
likely that the vessel-men rather than the engineers are right. 
These practical men also say that it is very dangerous to run 
vessels at night, and that the necessarily high insurance rates 
would be a serious if not a prohibitive addition to the cost of navi- 
gating such a canal. 

(c) Assuming the calculations of the engineers to be correct, 
the utmost possible capacity of the canal would be the passing 
of 11,550 vessels in any season, and this when every available 
drop of water has been brought into use. Now, 20,899 vessels 
have passed through the Soo canals in one year, and the traffic 
on the Great Lakes is still in its infancy: it is, therefore, evident 
that the proposed canal would be utterly inadequate to transport 
the freight that we may with reasonable confidence expect will 
seek its way to the seaboard within a very few years. 



(d) The horse power which it is estimated would be devel- po^ r Posaiblft 
oped by the construction of the canal would be less by at least Development. 
one-half than that which would be certainly developed by the 
improvement of the St. Lawrence canals, while owing to prox- 
imity to market the latter would have greater commercial value. 
Commercially, it will be impossible to find a market for anything 

like a million horse power in the projected Georgian Bay Canal 
route for some generations. Niagara power companies, including 
both sides of the river, are only producing to-day 300,000 horse- 
power, which is distributed over a large section in Canada and 
the United States. 

(e) Practical men do not agree with the engineers that the J/I^gtrtctiSn 6 
construction of such a canal would be possible in ten years, and 

say it would probably take twenty, or possibly thirty; but, 
assuming that the engineers are right, it is evident that even 
then the work could not be completed until our neighbors would 
have been given a six or seven years' monopoly of the water- 
borne traffic. In view of Canada's past experience of the re- 
lation borne by estimated cost to actual expenditure in the con- 
struction of public works, the engineers' estimate of $100,000,000 
does not inspire confidence. 

(/) The estimated cost of the proposed canal is for a canal of Locks too Small 
the dimensions stated, and the limited available supplyof water Requirements, 
at the summit would make a larger one impracticable; but vessels 
are now navigating the Great Lakes too large to pass through 
such a canal, and the tendency is to build larger rather than 
smaller vessels in the future. 

(g) The claim made under this head is illusory to say the £* Illusory 
i * ii Claim, 

least, for the reason that, no matter what route may be chosen, 

the important link at the Soo must necessarily be on the inter- 
national boundary. 



The Welland-St. Lawrence Route. 

It now remains only to consider the improvement of the 
Welland-St. Lawrence route; that is, the immediate deepening 
and enlarging of the Welland Canal to allow of the passage through 
it of the largest vessels now navigating or likely to navigate the 
lakes; a corresponding improvement of the St. Lawrence canals 
to follow immediately, or, if it be practical, to be carried out 
conjointly. 



Sound Public 
and Business 
Policy. 






These questions suggest themselves: 

(1) Is such a commodious canal system practical? 

(2) Is its cost reasonably within the sum that Canada may 
wisely expend to ensure her independence in the matter of water 
routes to her seaboard? 

(3) Would it certainly ensure this independence? 

(4) Would the national benefit from its construction and 
maintenance be great enough to justify the expenditure of the 
money it would cost? 

Sound public policy demands that all these questions shall be 
carefully and dispassionately considered. Canada has had a 
sufficiency of public works constructed to appease sectional 
clamor, to influence votes or to reward party service. Unless 
this project can be justified upon the ground of national necessity, 
and unless its business soundness can be shown, it ought not to 
be undertaken. But if the questions propounded above can be 
answered in the affirmative, Parliament ought not to hesitate, 
but arrange for the immediate commencement and vigorous 
prosecution of the work. 

u r iTqSiona&e. Is the scneme a practical one? Though the engineers have 

not finally reported, enough is known to make it certain that 
there are no insuperable or even serious engineering difficulties 
to overcome. The water supply is sufficient and inexhaustible. 
The first question may be safely answered in the affirmative. 

In the absence of the engineers' report the probable cost 
cannot be stated with any degree of positiveness. It has, however, 
been estimated that to deepen and improve the Welland Canal 
so that it will not be a mere make-shift meeting only the needs of 
» to-day or the near future, but a deep, safe, roomy waterway in- 
suring Canada's supremacy for all time in the matter of water- 
borne inland traffic, may cost from forty to fifty millions. It 
should be the best fresh-water ship canal in the world, for it will 
carry more commerce than any other excepting only the Soo 
canals. 

That this project would certainly ensure Canada's independent 
control of her waterway to the seaboard is beyond question. 
Every part of the route is either entirely within her own territory 
or absolutely free to her use. Vessels with more than ten times 



Any Probable 
Cost would be 
Justifiable. 






Would Positive- 
ly Insure our 
Commercial 
Independence. 



the capacity of the barges that will ply on the New Erie will be 
able to load at Fort William, Port Arthur, Duluth, or any northern 
port, and pass directly to Montreal without breaking bulk, and 
the cost of transportation will be so much less than by the Amer- 
ican route that it will more than offset the advantage which that 
route has in cheaper ocean freights and lower insurance charges. 



It has been argued that the Americans could tap this route gjo^of Traffic^ 



at Oswego or Syracuse, and by the construction of a ship canal without 
divert the trade to New York. Those who say this do not take 



into account the fact that a Board of Engineers appointed by the 
State of New York, after a careful and exhaustive examination 
of the route, reported that such a scheme is impractical, and 
that no greater depth than 1 2 feet can be maintained in the Hud- 
son between Coxackie and the State dam at Troy. Their new 
12-foot barge canal is, therefore, the last word our neighbors can 
say. Indeed, so evident is it to them that the St. Lawrence 
offers the only practical way from the Great Lakes to the sea for 
vessels of deep draft (and their public men and engineers of 
national repute have given the matter more earnest consideration ; 
than it has obtained in Canada), that it has been proposed by 
such men as Senator Townsend, Chairman of the Senate Com- 
mittee on Coast and Insular Survey, and by General Bixby, 
Chief of U.S. Army Engineers, that the United States Government 
should offer to share with Canada the cost of deepening and en- 
larging the route. 

Optimists and pessimists will be wide apart in their answers 
to the fourth question. The one will dream dreams of ocean 
liners sailing the lakes, of the wheat of the North- West being car- 
ried from Thunder Bay to Liverpool without trans-shipment, and 
of every harbor on the lakes transformed into an ocean port; 
the others will see nothing but failure and loss of the money in- 
vested. I\ were better to be a dreamer than a croaker, perhaps, 
but in this case it is better still to be neither. The question is a 
business one, to be answered in a cool-headed, business-like way. E . . . , 
Cost and advantages' must bear a reasonable relation to each Probable Cost, 
other in order to justify the construction of any public work. 
As to cost, we have, as has already been said, no definite data as, 
yet. The United States Senate Committee on Coast and Insular 
Survey has estimated the cost at $150,000,000. As this estimate 
provides for a complete waterway from the head of the lakes to 
the sea, overcoming the St. Lawrence rapids by a series of ponds, 
and deepening the lakes and harbors by dams at the foot or other- 



Future Traffic 
Requirements. 



Manufacturing 
Towns will 
Greatly 
Benefit. 



Water Freights 
Moderate Rail- 
way Charges. 



wise, and as it contemplates the providing of such a waterway 
that no further improvement will ever be necessary, the sum 
named may not be excessive, and it is as well to consider the 
highest estimate. 

Assuming, then, that the cost might reach this figure, what 
advantages may fairly be placed on the other side of the sheet? 

Although a large part of the future grain crop of the North- 
West will doubtless find its way to market via Western railways 
and the Panama Canal, and some perhaps by the Hudson Bay 
Railway, an ever-increasing quantity will go by way of the Great 
Lakes, and sound business reasons as well as proper political 
and national considerations require that the largest possible 
part of this shall pass through our own channels in Canadian 
vessels. 

Some reference has already been made to the traffic which 
passes through to the Soo canals, but it may not be amiss to 
say here that although the lake traffic is still in its infancy the 
number of vessels passing through the Soo canals is fully three 
and a half times as great as the traffic through the Suez, and the 
tonnage twice as much as the total entered and cleared at the 
ports of Liverpool and London combined. As this enormous and 
rapidly-increasing traffic is largely comprised of ores and other 
raw products, it surely does not require to be demonstrated that 
the deepening of the waterway from Lake Erie eastward would 
be of immense advantage to the manufacturing towns of Ontario 
and Quebec. 

Although for reasons already stated it is not likely or even 
among the possibilities that grain-carrying vessels will ever ply 
directly from the head of the lakes to Eureopean ports, yet were 
this waterway constructed there can be no doubt that there would 
be a great and increasing freight traffic in ocean-going vessels 
from the Great Lakes to Europe and back. The effect of such 
competition on railway freight rates was aptly summed up by 
Senator Townsend thus: If the project were realized, the Inter- 
state Commerce Commission would no longer have occasion to 
pass upon railway rates from the middle West to the Atlantic- 
water competition would keep them reasonable. The lessening 
of cost of bringing coal to Lake Ontario ports and the consequent 
reduction of prices at inland points would alone mean an enormous 
saving to our people. 

10 



It is estimated by so eminent an authority as General Bixby, Value ofWater- 
already mentioned, that by the improvement of the St. Lawrence me nt. 
route from the head of the rapids to Montreal, from four to five 
million horse power would be developed. Assuming that a 
market would ultimately be found for one-half of this, or say 
two million horse power, and that the price suggested by the 
Georgian Bay engineers would be obtainable, this would more 
than pay the interest on the entire cost even should it reach 
$200,000,000. 

The Sum of the Matter. 

It seems clear that only by the deepening and improvement of 
the complete Welland-St. Lawrence route can Canada assure to 
herself her proper control of the water-borne traffic from the 
Great Lakes to the seaboard. 

That the immediate commencement of this work is necessary 
to prevent the New Erie route obtaining an initial advantage 
which it would be difficult for Canada to overcome, perhaps im- 
possible. 

That the national and commercial advantages of this route 
will amply compensate for the cost, and that the water power 
which would be developed is an important item to be considered. 



11